Recruiting people with conflict-related convictions


When recruiting new staff, you may receive applications from candidates with conflict-related convictions that occurred before the Good Friday Agreement.
The Review Panel can help employers follow best practice procedures when recruiting people with convictions arising from that period of conflict, before April 1998, in Northern Ireland.

How to ensure a fair recruitment process

Employers should ignore any conflict-related conviction from job applicants unless it is considered materially relevant to the post concerned.
‘Material relevance’ is where the nature of or circumstances of the conviction would render it inadvisable for the individual concerned to undertake the specific duties of a particular post. The seriousness of the offence is not in and of itself enough to make a conviction materially relevant. 
When recruiting, you should select the most suitable candidates based on their skills and experience. See deciding on your successful job candidate

A conflict-related conviction should not play a part until the individual has successfully been through a selection process. You can then determine if the conviction is materially relevant to the job. 

If you refuse employment because of an applicant’s conflict-related conviction, the onus of proof is on the employer to show ‘material relevance’. The seriousness of the offence is not in and of itself enough to make a conviction materially relevant.

If an applicant is unhappy with your decision

An employer that decides not to offer a candidate employment based on their previous conviction being materially relevant to the post should be able to explain the decision to the job applicant.

If the candidate is unhappy with the decision, it is recommended that the employer and job applicant meet to discuss it. If the candidate is still not satisfied with the decision, they may bring the matter to the attention of the Review Panel in Northern Ireland.

The role of the Review Panel

The challenged decision can only be brought to the Review Panel if the employer and the job applicant have not been able to reach a satisfactory outcome through informal discussions. 

Unless the employer can argue convincingly that the conviction is materially relevant and manifestly incompatible with the post, the applicant (who at this stage is, all other things being equal, the preferred candidate for the job) should have the job.

Learn more about the role of the Review Panel.

Existing employment legislation

Employers should ensure that recruitment and employment practices deal fairly and equitably with all candidates, including those who have a conflict-related conviction.

Employers are not required to give preferential treatment to people with conflict-related convictions but rather to allow them to compete with other applicants on an equal basis.

The Review Panel does not impinge on the remit of existing mechanisms such as the Industrial Tribunal.

Further guidance

The Review Panel in Northern Ireland has produced guidance to help employers follow best practice in recruiting people with convictions before the Good Friday Agreement.  

It covers the steps to be followed by employers in dealing with job applicants who have conflict-related convictions:

The guidance represents additional good practice to be read alongside existing legislative provisions such as the principles contained in Fair Employment legislation.  

For further advice on fair employment - see recruiting staff and how to employ someone: step-by-step.